Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Go West

"If I had six hours to cut down a tree, I'd spend the first four sharpening the axe."  - Abe Lincoln, ex-President




Rarely will those of us in domestic service be asked to cut down a tree, but it's always good to know how, just in case. The same can be said for a luncheon for 85, cocktails for 600, or planning a special day in the park for the Principals' 1-year old daughter, each a little closer to what we could be expected to succeed with - even short notice - on any given day, involving the type of detail synchronization which most of us love. I sense agreement among the readership, as I type.

But what about our careers, themselves? How much planning and thoughtfulness goes into how well we succeed? Over the past twenty years, just five shy of my own humble beginnings as the caretaker for an oceanfront estate where duties were more or less limited to washing windows, waxing the cars, and combing the cat, I've noticed quite the explosion (and implosion) of coursework and workshops, beginning with the 8-week standard model, to the 6-week accelerated, to the 4-week intensive, to the online economical, and now to the 3-day, morning-only, and on down to monthly coffee socials which promise sun, moon, stars, and of course, six-figure-plus starting salaries for the certified attendees. In light of the phenomenal success of 7-minute-abs DVDs, will we soon attempt transformation into stellar service material in less time than it takes for our afternoon break?  I predict yes, wheresoever Abe Lincoln's advice is disfavored.

Unlike most technical and professional (using the traditional interpretation of the term) trades, our industry, somewhat admirably, seems on a fast-track quest to carve out the credentials needed to succeed. As exciting as the trailblazing is, those who trot along the path must also remember these guided tours are no substitute for a well-rounded expedition of experiences and history of demonstrable performance on stage. This applies individually as well as collectively - and we instinctively knew this, while growing up and appreciating the diversity of backgrounds in all facets of life... where would, after all, the Village People's credibility have been if all members were dressed only as Construction Worker? 

"Go west, we will do just fine."  - The Village People

Their success came from creating a healthy tidepool
and the decisive action it took to earn their place.
Healthy tide pools, as you may recall from high-school biology, have a few of a lot of different species, instead of a lot of a few different ones. Same concept also applies to pop music icons and domestic staff  teams, an often interchangeably cast of characters, I say with both respect and admiration. An eclectic and well-rounded background, from the ground up, is also a healthy dose of diversity which simply cannot be replicated within the predictable structure of the latest must-attend training seminar. Earn the background, and you'll do just fine.

Standardization, now though, seems to be the buzzword all about, yet let's not forget that standards flow best when trickling down from the principals who employ their service providers, not those of us who would, as J. Hackman so eloquently cautions us in HBP's Leading Teams, erroneously assume their role. Four hours may seem like a long time to spend with any endeavor these days, yet part of the experience will always be the experience itself of gaining an experience, never to be underestimated nor underplayed.

Go west... or go east... yet the important thing will always be - to go.